Saturday, 3 September 2011

Grisedale Horseshoe Fell Race 2011

It wasn’t a day to take an O.S. map in your bum bag unless you were trying to make papier mache, never mind being given someone else’s map to borrow for this 10 mile sojourn.
Finishing some work in Penrith, I drove to Glenridding in the Lakes with a notion of running (not racing) this 5500ft leg-bender. I’ve had virtually no hill racing in the past few months but was looking forward to the workout.

The clag was down and the grey sky was emptying itself across the glum hills. I arrived in the usual state of disorganisation and was happy to make the registration and bag check in the Village Hall near the banks of Ullswater. I didn’t have a map though and it took some kind gent to fetch one from his car. I hope he wasn’t too fond of it.

I set off right at the back with just over 100 runners, many of whom had their hoods up and jackets zipped up, making their way anonymously up the steep staircase of slippy and greasy boulders. Pouring rain. Puddles everywhere. Having pretty much walked up to the top, I broke into a run with a couple of runners ahead. The visibility in the murk was about fifty metres and I thought it best to catch the guys ahead. Safety in numbers and all that. The rain was relentless and like needles in places and as we ran through the mist I was careful to watch where I was putting my feet with some very technical and rocky outcrops and jagged, ragged edges that would have opened your knee like a can-opener. We ran along the wet gravel track and the pace was pretty easy after the first checkpoint. But as we started to descend I struggled to keep up and one lad beside me went for a full on dive through the grass about thirty seconds before I lost my footing and slid several metres in the super-lubricated conditions. I think my dive was more dramatic and, for a moment, as I slid along, I was wondering if I was going to come to a halt anytime soon.

We had a loose group of five but in the cloud someone went for a shortcut and we went too far right after Dollywagon Pike and missed the Tarn by a long way. I had asked Colin Valentine (Keswick) who was bouncing along in front of me if he was familiar with the route, but I guess it was just one of those things. Personally, I had no idea where we were, but that's not unusual.
We doubled back after compasses and (soggy) maps came out and we lost a lot of time pondering where we went wrong. We trooped over the moor and along the side of the little lake which emerged out of the mist like something from the film 'Excalibur'.

Finding the next checkpoint, it was up somewhere near or over Helvelyn (though I didn't really notice it) and across to St Sunday Crag which was a bit of a trog but we were soon over it and, as we descended, we bumped into around 10 or 12 others, a big group beginning the tricky, wet and slippy descent down a scree filled gully which then opened out to a vista of thick grass, ferns and grey boulders down into the valley floor. I lost some time coming down, but was trying to enjoy my ‘early afternoon out’ so there was no going into the red.
We crossed the Beck at the bottom of the valley which was quite exciting and a new underwater experience for my Garmin and then we were faced with the steep wall and ascent over Grisedale Brow, a mean test and it was hands and knees up through the reedy grass and ferns for most of the way. It was a steep slow slog but I had to time to sup some water from the stream and then developed my technique on the way up electing to go for the ‘knuckle gorilla walk’, this being better than ‘splayed fingers routine’ when on all fours.

I had lost the Keswick runner down the gully somewhere but he popped up at the crest of the Brow from a different direction in front of me and I followed him down into the finish.
It was a mid-table position and it was a wet, noisy and animated crowd who stood around the tea table. I had a quick chat with the only NFR runner I saw and after digging out what was left of the borrowed map and placing it on the radiator, I made for the car.

It was a good run but with very little sight seeing and I finished around 2:40, not too bad having lost probably around 10 or 12 minutes and by the Garmin I had run an extra mile or so.
Carl Bell (Howgill: 1:56) won from Cornforth (Borrowdale) and Addison (Helm Hill). Natalie White (Kendal 2:16) won the ladies race from Robinson (Ambleside) and Roberts (Kendal). Pleased to finish in one piece !


Stu Stod said...

That last climb is a killer eh.
Hope im injury free to do it next year.
I will give Colin some ribbing for taking you off course!!!!

AMcD said...

Actually, if he'd not been around I think I'd still be up there!

Simon Anderson said...

Well done! No doubt you were one of the many people who came blazing past me after Grisedale Beck.

Where are the results do you know?

AMcD said...

Expect to see them on the Fell Runners or the organising club website perhaps in the next few days.